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Australian Senate Passes Bill To Effectively Ban Online Poker

Changes To Existing Law Will Close 'Loopholes' That Allowed I-Poker For Years

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Australian lawmakers have passed amendments to online gambling law that will effectively shut down real-money online poker in the country.

According to The Huffington Post Australia, the country’s parliament on Tuesday approved the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016.

A 2015 study of illegal online gambling happening in the country recommended closing “loopholes” that allowed Aussies to play on offshore poker platforms.

A law dating back to 2001 attempted to prohibit internet betting, but for years poker players were able to play from within the country.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was under consideration in the Senate since late last year. The legislation also will put restrictions on online sports betting.

The legislation states that online poker companies can’t offer games to Australians unless licensed. But there’s no licensing or regulatory process for online poker.

888Poker left the market in January, while PokerStars said it might follow suit.

“While Amaya currently offers poker to Australian customers through PokerStars under its Isle of Man global gaming license, if proposed legislation passes into law players located in Australia would likely be blocked from playing on our sites,” the company said earlier this year.

It’s unclear if smaller, lesser-known sites based overseas will leave the market.

The size of the gambling market in Australia, home to 24 million people, is around $20 billion. A report from The Guardian said that internet gambling is the fastest-growing segment of the country’s gambling market, increasing at a 15 percent clip year-over-year. Australians spend more on gambling than people anywhere else in the world.

David Ean Leyonhjelm, a Senator for New South Wales representing the Liberal Democratic Party, has been a vocal opponent of the online poker changes. He said last month in a Facebook video that he wants poker players to break the law and use virtual private networks to try to continue playing online. VPNs are prohibited by many online poker sites.

Leyonhjelm was seeking to exclude poker from the legislation.

“If you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments,” he told The Huffington Post. “It’s not as if there isn’t a great deal of poker playing already, but they’re just stopping it online. The whole world is online now.”